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Soils: A Frontier of Science

            The Soil Science Society of America was created 75 years ago during what came to be known as the American Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was one of the worst environmental disasters to happen to the United States. When the SSSA was created, scientist knew very little about the science behind soil, and to be more specific, top soil. It is no doubt that the Dust Bowl could have been prevented if more was known about the soil in the Midwest at the time. "Greed on the part of land developers, ignorance on the part of many policymakers, and probably also the carelessness of many land managers unfortunately resulted in short-sighted decisions." (Baveye p. 10) To this day farmers and scientist alike still do not fully understand the science behind topsoil and it is very much a frontier science. There are many countries around the world which are experiencing the same difficulties as the United States did in the 1930's as a result. Baveye reports that soils play a huge part in the carbon cycle, and that is one of the key ingredients leading to global warming. "To put it differently, soils contain the equivalent of about 300 times the amount of Carbon now released annually through the burning of fossil fuels. In addition, in many soils, carbon stocks contain large amounts of Nitrogen, whose metabolism by microorganisms can also contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions." (Baveye p. 5) Siegfried D. Schubert talks about how the Dust Bowl and drought was caused by anomalous tropical sea surface temperatures and the interactions between the atmosphere and land surface. He does not say anything about the top soil and improper farming procedures used by farmers of that time. There is no doubt that there are a handful of reasons for the drought and dust storms of the 1930's and both authors bring up good reasons why it happened. In Schubert's research though, he explained and shows that major droughts have occurred once or twice a century for at least the past 400 years.

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